As more organizations morph into software companies, they’re finding it takes a new mindset to acquire digital talent. Not only are key positions in short supply; today’s candidates are also motivated by different things than previous generations, making the group distinctly different from previous hires. As a result, successful recruitment and retention today requires a new approach.

We’re learning to master the new hiring mindset at our state-of-the-art delivery centers throughout the country. Because these studios practice cutting-edge software design – where the art and science of software design and development epitomize cross-disciplinary collaboration at its finest – they provide valuable insights into successful strategies for finding and hiring top digital talent.

Here are a few lessons we’ve learned along the way.

#1. Digital talent hangs out in different places 
To stay on top of the best job opportunities, top digital talent flocks to events that provide community and learning. Events like hackathons have eclipsed the traditional pipeline of recruitment and staffing agencies. These gatherings serve as an information swap: Individuals learn what your organization has to offer, and your company connects with prospective hires for hard-to-fill positions.

At our Digital Studios in Texas, we host regular evening and Saturday meetups on technical topics such as cloud-native technologies, Agile transformation and UI/UX. These sessions provide us with access to in-demand professionals such as full-stack engineers, solutions architects, and engineering and product managers while also sharpening our insights into topics that are at the forefront of every client conversation.

These gatherings also help our studios embrace a broader universe of talent. In addition to attracting diverse candidates who are typically under-represented in traditional recruiting processes, these events help us forge close ties with local community colleges. Graduates from these schools – who are skilled individuals outside the traditional four-year college degree trajectory – are a key hiring group. Talent is as much about attitude as aptitude, and amid the current skills shortage, community colleges have emerged as a key market to tap for smart, ambitious candidates.

#2. Keep the learning going 
Digital professionals typically take every opportunity they can to learn. Every Wednesday in our Irving, Texas, studio, 80 to 90 employees attend our one-hour lunch-and-learns. The sessions are open to all, and topics range from new technology solutions to business cases. When we launched these get-togethers, we expected them to be top-down driven. Instead, staffers themselves have run with the idea and regularly suggest topics that interest them. Based on the popularity of these sessions, we’ve expanded the content beyond technology, and a session on financial planning is now in the works. The gatherings are an important retention tool for a generation that desires continuous learning.

#3. Emphasize community and commitment 
To motivate digital talent – and young people in general – businesses need to embrace a new set of norms focused on meaningful work and purpose beyond profits. During interviews, digital candidates often turn the tables and start asking us more questions than we pose to them. In nearly every interview, we field probing questions from prospective hires about the nature of the work they’ll be doing and our efforts in the area of corporate social responsibility. This has spurred us to expand our corporate responsibility programs over the past three years. In August 2019, we joined nearly 200 companies in signing the Business Roundtable’s statement of purpose. We’ve also stepped up our efforts to make it easier for employees to contribute to causes that matter to them. Through our corporate intranets and affinity groups, we promote events such as food drives and volunteer opportunities. When Hurricane Harvey struck in 2017, several folks from our Dallas office piled into a car and drove 240 miles to Houston to lend a hand.

#4. Adopt a community-based capability model
The message from employees is loud and clear: They want to develop their craft by working closely with others with similar interests. As a result, we’re transitioning our studios’ organizational structure away from a hierarchical, project-based model to a community-based capability model. Instead of working within a specific service line such as testing or infrastructure services, our studios align talent around functions, such as engineering management or Java development. Now, employees can directly identify as part of a community and contribute to it. The reorganization creates affinity groups for professionals.

Evolving into a software company requires changing in fundamental ways, and the adoption of a new hiring mindset is among the most important. Our future, like yours, rests on it.

Allen Shaheen

Allen Shaheen

Allen Shaheen is an Executive Vice-President  responsible for Cognizant’s North American regional delivery centers. He is also a board member of the... Read more